SAGINAW – “It’s our time.”
Those were the first words spoken by Granbury Lady Pirate volleyball coach Tammy Clark after her team defeated Birdville 25-14, 25-19, 25-19 in the area round of the Class 4A Region I playoffs Thursday at Boswell High School.
Clark was referencing her team playing its best volleyball of the season. The Lady Pirates (24-17) swept their second consecutive playoff opponent and are now in the regional quarterfinals (third round) for a fourth straight season.
And while Clark would love nothing more than to be playing in the regional tournament next weekend in Abilene, she’s not looking past the next round against the winner between Burleson and Denton Guyer early next week.
Those teams played last night. The Lady Pirates have not played Guyer this season and defeated Burleson during a time when Granbury senior middle hitter Shannon Helm was out with an injury.
“If we can keep our focus on the game we need to play, the rest will take care of itself,” Clark said.
In each of their two playoff matches, Granbury has been in control virtually throughout. There was a slow start against Cleburne (23-19) when they fell behind 5-0, and Birdville (26-12) likewise jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second game.
But in each case, Granbury used a timeout to regroup and stormed back to take command.
“We’d keep getting on a run and letting them come back. Then, we realized it was time to get down and dirty,” said Helm.
“We’ve been steadily getting more and more aggressive,” said Clark. “Our blocking was a huge factor. That’s been a big focus for us.”
Just as they did against Cleburne, the Lady Pirates consistently frustrated the Lady Hawks with defense (109 digs in the two matches), which led to kills and blocks.
“You can’t fall into the tipping game,” said Helm, referring to Cleburne’s dinks that sometimes altered the pace of the game until Granbury picked it back up.
“You won’t win.”
The Lady Pirates also kept both the Lady Jackets and Lady Hawks off balance with their serve-receive game.
“I was just trying to serve around where they moved,” said sophomore Breanna Crain, summing up the situation simply.
“We were changing it around, not hitting the same spot,” said senior Amy Mendoza.
In all, Granbury served 23 aces in the two matches, led by Helm with eight.
The Lady Pirates qualified for the postseason as the runner-up in District 7-4A to Aledo, the No. 3 team in the state. Other than the Ladycats, however, the rest of the district was no match for Granbury, which swept all dozen of its league wins.
But before playing bidistrict, the Lady Pirates dropped a warmup match to rival Stephenville. That match, senior Paige Holt said, was critical.
“I think we needed that loss to prepare for the playoffs,” she said.
“It helped remind us that there are some other teams out there other than the ones we beat in district,” sophomore Aubrey Ezell added.
“The girls have been executing perfectly. They’ve been learning from what we’re studying,” Clark said.
The Lady Pirates played Birdville without freshman outside hitter Karis Beasley, one of their top players. She left the Cleburne match with an apparent leg injury, and Clark said her status was still being evaluated.
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Class 4A volleyball playoffs
Granbury defeated Cleburne 25-21, 25-23, 25-19
Aces – Shannon Helm 4, Karis Beasley 3, Amy Mendoza 3.
Kills – Helm 5, Paige Holt 5
Blocks – Sydney Carpenter 1.
Assists – Aubrey Ezell 18.
Digs – Breanna Crain 12, Shelby Shade 11.
Granbury defeated Birdville 25-14, 25-19, 25-19
Aces – Helm 4, Mendoza 2, Ezell 2, Crain 2.
Kills – Helm 9, Alexis Carpenter 6.
Blocks – Helm 2.5, Ezell 2, Holt 1.5, S. Carpenter 1.
Assists – Ezell 20, Cowden 12.
Digs – Crain 20, Shade 9, Cowden 8.